Donald Miller, whose writing I enjoy, had a disappointing article a couple of weeks ago on why he doesn’t go to church very often. Plenty of people have offered critiques on the piece as a whole, so I won’t do that, except to observe that most members of my small, young church could give a better explanation of why church matters than this best-selling Christian author.
I do want to respond to one point in Miller’s followup post.
Your church likely looks nothing like the church in the book of Acts, which, was not much of a prescription on how to do church anyway…
Unless you are Shane Claiborne, your church probably doesn’t look anything like the church in the book of Acts, so let’s not get self righteous.
Yes, the irony meter is spiking in that last sentence. And yes, a better conclusion than Miller’s would be “Well, I’ll saddle up with the imperfect church that God provides and try to help make it better.” But the more I thought about this critique, the less sense it made.
Certainly our churches are flawed. We have many blind spots. We can always do more to care for each other, to teach the Bible more powerfully, to serve the poor in our city, to share the Gospel more consistently. But actually, the church I serve looks a good bit like the church(es) in Acts. And I bet yours does too.
- We devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, and to prayer, like in Acts 2:42.
- We share with each other sacrificially when one is in need, like in Acts 2:45 and 4:34-35.
- We gather on the Lord’s day to worship, like in Acts 20:7.
- We receive the preached Word with joy, like in Acts 8:8 and 13:48.
- We take up offerings to help the poor and do other good works, like in Acts 11:27-30.
- We pray for boldness in sharing the Word, and for God to move in power, like in Acts 4:29-31.
- We ask God to work miracles for the sick, like in Acts 3:1-7 and about a hundred other places.
- We work to train and recognize godly leaders, like the deacons in Acts 6:1-6 and elders in Acts 14:23 (and elsewhere).
- We bring these leaders together to make biblically-informed, Spirit-guided decisions on doctrinal and practical matters, like in Acts 15.
We need to grow in all of these. And I would love to see some things I don’t see. I would love to see God adding to our number daily those who are being saved, like in Acts 2:47. I would love to see undeniable miracles pointing to the power of God, like we see throughout the book. I would love for us to pray more faithfully and more boldly. In short, I would love to see revival in my city, as we see it in several cities in the book of Acts. But revival, miracles, conversions– these are God’s work. Faithfulness is our job; fruit is his.
Church-bashing is a popular sport right now, and you can always find the ammo. Many of the critiques are true. But there are many imperfect-but-healthy churches filled with many imperfect-but-growing Christians seeking to be faithful and obedient. Being part of one of these churches, appreciating the good and trying to help correct the flaws, is one of the best things you can do for your own spiritual growth. And we need all the help we can get.